In a website update, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) said that accountants who don’t operate under an Australian financial service licence (AFSL) are limited in how they can refer a client to an automated advice provider.
“Some robo-advice services may suggest that unlicensed accountants who refer clients to a robo-adviser won’t be providing a financial service; however, this may not always be correct,” the ATO warned.
"But they can’t guide you through the process or endorse any advice provided by the robo-adviser,” the ATO clarified.
The ATO urged accountants who provide self-managed super fund (SMSF) services without a full AFSL to be aware of their obligations when they refer clients to robo-advisers.
It also reminded trustees and professionals that any organisation that provides financial product advice through a robo-advice service must have an AFSL or be a representative of an AFS licensee.
Mayflower Consulting managing director Sarah Penn raised similar concerns previously, highlighting the importance of unlicensed accountants establishing a clear divide between their services and the advice services being provided by the automated advice system.
“There is nothing wrong with [automated] advice, I’m actually all for it but the accountant can’t pass off that advice as being their own. They need to be very clear that advice is being delivered by a different AFSL through a computer system,” Ms Penn said.
“They can’t be discussing what the computer says in terms of advice, they can’t be trying to pass it off as their own. It needs to be quite a distinct hand-off to the computer system to deliver the advice.”
The ATO has retracted its robo-advice warnings, and issued the following statement to AccountantsDaily:
Today the ATO has removed from our website information for SMSF Trustees and advisors we published last week relating to robo-advice. The article contained some inaccurate and unclear information. We regret any uncertainty the article may have raised. The ATO will publish links on our website to the official information and guidance about this topic published by ASIC, the primary regulator on the provision of financial advice, including robo-advice.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.